2023 Yankees Breakout Prospects

Juan Carela, Tampa Tarpons, July 30, 2022, Florida State League. Photo credit Bryan Green, begreen90 on Flickr

I always love breakout prospects and I wanted to highlight some that I suspect will break out in a big way during this 2023 season. I’m avoiding the obvious players in this article, like Jasson Dominguez, Everson Pereira, Trey Sweeney and Clayton Beeter, all whom I expect to have huge breakout years, to focus on lower caliber prospects. I expect all of these prospects to climb my Yankees Top 50 by midseason and become a worthwhile investment in the fantasy world.

Trystan Vrieling, RHP – (#20 in my 2023 Yankees Top 50 Prospects)
The Yankees 3rd round pick in 2022, Vrieling likes to outthink his opponents as a meticulous pitcher. Vrieling throws a fastball in the low 90s range, hitting the mid 90s while in college at Gonzaga. His bread and butter is his off speed stuff mixing in a slider in the low-to-mid 80s with short and tight break. Add big spin rates in the 2,500-2,800 rpm range (that sometimes turning cutterish), an upper-70s-to-lower-80s curveball which is his best swing-and-miss offering, and also a mid-80s changeup. He has success with his fastball because he commands it to all four quadrants and it plays up that way. Everything that’s not a fastball is more effective than the heater for him for the time being. He had 107 strikeouts in 80.2 innings with a 4.91 ERA with the Zags in 15 starts in 2022, improving his stock on the Cape with a 1.04 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 17.1 innings (7 games, 2 starts). He’s 6′ 4″ with a starter’s build and has the weapons that working with the Yankees coaching staff will only improve on his already very big ceiling.

Luis Serna, RHP – (#28)
Signed the Mexican league in 2021 for $50,000 as a 17-year-old, Serna had a 1.96 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 11 games (10 starts) in 41.1 innings with FCL in 2022. His 56 strikeouts tied him for the FCL lead. Serna’s best pitch is a mid-70s changeup which could become a plus weapon very soon. His changeup has a big velocity separation from his fastball which sits in the low 90s and tops out at 94. He also owns a good curveball and a solid slider with high spin rate. His change up and curveball look very similar out of his hand helping his deception. Serna has room to add strength and velocity on this fastball with great maturity and pitchability. He throws strikes with advanced command getting a lot of ground ball contact. With Serna’s solid four pitch mix he has a chance to rise up the rankings and quickly!

Richard Fitts, RHP – (#31)
Fitts the Yankees sixth round pick (183rd overall) in the 2021 MLB Draft throws a low to mid 90s fastball that he has success with up in the zone, a sharp slider with good drop and solid sweep, a developing changeup that can limit hard contact from both sides of the plate, and an occasional cutter that needs some work. At 6’3 and 215 pounds, Fitts can definitely add some velocity and get closer to the mid 90s, maybe even hit upper 90s on his fastball consistently. While in college at Auburn he was hitting the mid 90s, touching 97 mph at times. Fitts is able to generate strong movement that profiles for a ton of swings and misses and has flashed a higher velocity upside at times in the minors.

In 2022, Fitts struggled some with Tampa Tarpons where he had a 5.01 ERA, but his xFIP (3.34) and K-BB% (23.2%) were both great, striking out 93 over 79 innings. The Yankees identified him having lots of strikeouts without many walks and promoted him to High-A Hudson Valley, where was amazing. In 33 innings (5 starts) he had a 0.55 ERA, a 0.61 WHIP to go along with 38 strikeouts and just 3 walks! Fitts combined to finish with a 7-8 record with a 3.70 ERA, 131 strikeouts and 20 walks in 112 innings between both stops in 2022. Easily the biggest selling point with Fitts is his incredible command and aggressiveness in the strike zone with his walk percent on the season just under 5%. That aggressiveness will only benefit him more if he’s able to add a tick to his velocity and polish off his secondary pitches, then we might be looking at one of the better pitching prospects in the Yankees system and a high riser in many rankings. I fully suspect he could be challenged in Somerset right away in 2023. He’s got the ceiling of a mid rotation starter and maybe more it’s not too late to get on the Richard Fitts hype train and pick him up in most fantasy leagues before it’s too late.

Juan Carela, RHP – (#33)
I like Carela a lot. He throws a 92-95 mph fastball to go with plus curveball with good spin, a plus-slider and a decent change up. The Yankees pitching department tinkered with the grip on Carela’s slider to help shape it into a shorter, tighter offering than its previous version. The organization is also working on improving the quality of both Carela’s two-seamer and changeup. His strikeout and walk rates are trending in the right directions after having huge command and control problems early in his career, making Carela an interesting sleeper-type prospect. Carela went 8-6 with a 4.21 ERA and had 131 strikeouts in 23 games (21 starts, 107 innings) between Tampa and Hudson valley last season. He’s still just a kid, but he has a good body with some projectability that can be a back end starter or good reliever. He’s definitely got a shot and is a long-range project, but he needs a lot of work and could see a raise in the rankings quickly. Carela is a very hard worker and will make the changes and improve.

Enmanuel Tejeda, SS – (#34)
Tejada, signed from the Dominican Republic for $40K in 2022, has good pop, good speed and some tools to believe in. He showed off in the DSL last season where he hit .289 with 3 home runs and 6 doubles. What was most impressive about Tejeda were his 7 triples, 11 steals and 41 walks to 25 strikeouts in only 46 games (188 at bats)! Perfect Game gave him a rating of 8, which means they saw him as a “potential draft pick and/or excellent college prospect” before the Yankees signed him. The switch-hitting 18-year-old shortstop has potential to rocket up the ranks once he gets more at bats and more exposure. Tejada is light years away but it’s never too early to start thinking about the future of the Yankees middle infield or him as a trade chip in a few years. He was overshadowed in the DSL by Keiner Delgado, but don’t look past this young Dominican!

Anthony Hall, OF – (#38)
The talk of the Yankees 2022 MLB Draft was Spencer Jones, but not to be overlooked, Hall was drafted in the 4th round out of Oregon and he will be getting some attention very soon. A left hand hitting center fielder, Hall got off to a slow start last year with the Ducks but eventually broke out and ended up having a fantastic season hitting .333/.402/.640/1.042 OPS with 14 home runs, 24 walks and 43 strikeouts in 60 games. Hall has plus raw power, which even though it is mostly to the pull side, he also has a good ability to hit the ball to all fields. He crushes fastballs and continues to refine his recognition of softer stuff while improving at laying off of breaking pitches out of the zone. With Oregon, Hall worked to increase his bat speed and generate higher exit velocities, having a max exit velocity of 110.9 MPH in college, which is well above average. This will help him be a fast riser in the system and climb his way to the Major League level.

While he’s only had one at bat in professional baseball, Hall is starting 2023 with Single-A Tampa and will try to slug his way into the higher levels of the minors. There’s definitely some serious pop in his bat and being left-handed will certainly generate buzz with the short porch in the Bronx. Hall has experience at first base and the Yankees don’t have a ton of depth at that position, so it is possible he gets some reps there. Hall is also a very solid runner but projects to be more of a corner outfielder than a centerfielder even though he has the wheels for centerfield. I view Anthony Hall as someone who could be a bat first guy that flies under the radar until he reaches the higher levels of the minor leagues. Out of all of the prospects on this list that are in my top 50, he has the most question marks surrounding him but I think he will have success.

Here are five other Yankees breakout candidates not in my top 50 but could very well reach my top 50 with breakout seasons.

Josue Panacual, RHP – Owning a mid 90s fastball, a very good sinker, a mid 80s changeup and a low 80s slider, Panacual is one to watch and could see his stock rise in 2023. Only 21 and already having 10 starts to his name with High-A Hudson Valley, I’d expect him to start there getting a taste of Double-A Somerset before very long. Panacual probably ends up as a high leverage reliever that will rely on his very good sinker, but currently he is very raw and needs to work on his command.

Omar Gonzalez, RHP – The 17-year-old Gonzalez, 6-foot-4, 175-pounder is a big kid and has plenty of room to fill out. This big righty is off to a great start to his career in the minors. In the DSL he had 36 strikeouts and 9 walks in 20.1 innings with a 0.44 ERA. Gonzalez has some advanced metrics working in his favor, with some of the most vertical movement on his fastball of any player in the entire minor leagues. His fastball velocity sits in the low 90s and I have no doubt Gonzalez will get higher readings on his fastball in the coming years. He also owns a high spin curveball and changeup which have the potential to be plus secondary offerings. Gonzalez has many years of development left, but he has tons of talent and growth to like.

Jerson Alejandro, RHP – Just 17 years old, Alejandro (nicknamed “King Kong”) signed during the 2023 international signing period. The 6-foot-6, 255 pound Alejandro throws a fastball that tops out at 98 mph, a curveball that averages 80 mph, a changeup that sits at 86-87 mph and a sinker that sits at 94-95. He likes his curveball the most, so that will be a pitch to watch during the 2023 campaign.

Jordarlin Mendoza, RHP – The 19-year-old Mendoza sat down 77 hitters while walking 19 in just 55 innings (12 starts) with the DSL in 2022, leading the league in strikeouts and having a 2.95 ERA. With a fastball that already hits 96 mph regularly with late life, a nasty slider, and a changeup with impressive fade, Mendoza has both the polish and stuff to succeed. At this point in his career Mendoza is still a lottery ticket but he is relatively polished and has a higher floor than most prospects his age. He will likely begin the season in the FCL and get some innings in Low-A before the season ends.

Engelth Urena, C – Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $275,000 in 2022, Urena was the Yankees second biggest signing at last year’s International Free Agent signing day. In the top of the first inning of Urena’s first professional game, he ended up fracturing his hand on a foul tip, then stayed in the game and went on to hit a home run in his next at bat before being pulled. He then missed most of the rest of the year, playing just 11 games total. He hit three home runs, two doubles and struck out six times while walking five times, hitting .226/.351/.581/.932. The Yankees praise him as someone to watch because of the potential in his bat with plus hit tool, good power and athleticism. Engelth will likely start his 2023 in the Florida Complex Rookie League.

Paul Woodin is a huge sports fan who leads the New York Yankees minor league farm system coverage for the Prospects1500 team. Growing up playing and watching baseball while collecting baseball cards, Paul developed a love for the game. Born and raised in Connecticut between Yankees and Red Sox territory, Paul become a Yankees fan because of Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter. An avid sports card, memorabilia and autograph collector, he participates in redraft, dynasty and prospect-only fantasy baseball formats during each season. Feel free to reach out on Twitter

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